As I blogged yesterday (here and here), there is a current, ugly push-poll being used by anti-gay folks in Oregon to convince voters to support a ban on same-sex marriage. One of the questions the push-poll asks, as quoted in the Oregonian, is:
I wrote earlier that I didn’t know exactly what Massachusetts policy the push-poll question referred to. My friend Robert Hayes suggested that they’re probably referring to this policy (thanks to Charles for the link!). Robert wrote:
So that’s what they’re talking about in their push poll.
I’m not a Christian fundamentalist, and I’m not concerned that someone’s children might be taught tolerance. I am concerned about what values my children are taught; fortunately, I have lots of recourse in that department. There are a lot of people who don’t have my options, though, and I can understand why they would be upset.
Amp, if you had kids, and the only school you could afford to send your kids to taught values that were morally wrong to you, wouldn’t you be upset? I think that folks on all sides of the fence have to understand the special status of public schools. They’re the school of last resort for all, and the school of only resort for many. Regardless of the merits of a particular piece of social advocacy, using the schools for such advocacy is inevitably going to trample on someone.
First of all, I want to point out that Trey of Daddy, Papa and Me has responded to Robert’s comment. I agree with Trey completely – his response to Robert is better and more interesting than my own – but I can’t find a good bit to quote out of context, so please go read Trey’s post.
My response to Robert: It’s far from clear that the particular policy Robert is talking about – which says only that students be able to “Define sexual orientation using the correct terminology (such as heterosexual, and gay and lesbian)” – can be correctly described as “advocacy.” If it’s advocacy, it’s only so in the same way that teaching evolution is advocacy. And in any case, the policy predates SSM in Massachusetts by five years, so suggesting that this policy is caused by SSM (as the push-poll did) is dishonest.
However, what about schools that include a book like Heather Has Two Mommies in the curriculum? A book like that (to repeat Robert’s distinction) goes beyond teaching tolerance to advocating normalization.
Can I feel sympathy for a family that is “upset” that their child is reading Heather Has Two Mommies in public school? Well, I can certainly understand why they’re upset. But from my perspective, they’re upset for the same reason that an anti-Semitic family might be upset when public schoolchildren are taught that Jewish holidays and traditions should be accorded the same respect as Christian holidays and traditions.
I can understand that, too. On an intellectual level, if I try, I can even sympathize with the pain and distress such parents must feel. But it doesn’t mean that I’m inclined to want those folks setting policy.
(Charles also brought up an interesting question: How does Robert feel about the pro-capitalism bias of virtually all public schools in the USA, since this may distress those parents who are socialists?)
Returning to what is (for me) the central issue of my earlier post, I can understand the distress anti-gay parents feel. However, that distress doesn’t excuse using fear of the “gay lifestyle” being taught in schools to drum up support for an anti-gay measure that has nothing to do with what’s taught in schools. In fact, because I can understand that distress, I think that telling lies designed to aggravate that distress is particularly scummy.
(I’m not assuming that Robert disagrees with me on this point; he hasn’t yet commented either way).